Wednesday, July 2, 2014

One Year In: My Advice On Going Vegan

As I've said before, I am about one year into my vegan journey. My lifestyle change manifesto was posted on my opera singer website because that's where I was blogging at the time. Now that I have a little experience under my belt, but not too much that I don't remember the transition, I want to give my tips on how to take the plunge.

Note, my plunge was a smaller jump than some because I have lived my whole life as a vegetarian. I have no idea what it's like to give up bacon or buttered cod because I've never tasted those things and have never wanted to do so. On the other hand, I did have the experience of taking control of my food choices for the first time. My vegetarianism previously had been of necessity due to bodily intolerance. Although I was sympathetic to the cause, I used my inability to eat meat as an excuse when people asked questions about it; it made them more comfortable. As a vegan by choice, I stand by all my reasons.

So, without further ado,
Amanda's Tips for Going Vegan

1. Have a reason.

I thought about becoming vegan for years before I actually did. It seemed hard. It seemed impractical. It seemed unnecessary. Hard and impractical are easier to handle once you have made up your mind that it is necessary. Though I should state veganism is neither hard nor impractical, the transition seems so from the edge of the cliff.

For me, the driving point was that cage-free eggs aren't really made by happy chickens. I read articles like this one that put doubts in my head about the line between lip service and reality. Do your research. Explore PETA's site. Whatever your personal issue is (animal treatment, the environment, health), find out more until your mind is satisfied. If something smells rotten in a lot of industries, it probably is. Allow yourself to stop eating rotten food.

2. Give yourself time to transition, but clean out your pantry in one fell swoop.

I decided to go vegan upon waking up one morning in the beginning of June. The night before, I had a conversation with my beau about all my doubts regarding the treatment of farm animals. By dawn, I was convinced. I was also suddenly a vegan about to go on a trip to the other coast and who had a good amount of dairy in her pantry.

I went on my trip without telling my companions about the recent change. I wanted to come to terms with it myself before going public. I tried my best, but ended up eating some animal products. Traveling as a vegan is an advanced skill, and it's okay not to be at that level yet. One trick I did learn: When in California, substitute avocado for cheese---always. If you see it in another dish, they don't have a problem putting it in yours.

As for my pantry, I tried just using up the foods with animal products, but that system didn't work. For one, my mind had already decided eggs and dairy milk were gross, so I didn't want to use any of it. Secondly, it dragged out the process. I wanted to own my new lifestyle, and I was hindered by things I had bought in the past. My advice: Give away all the non-vegan food and start fresh.

3. Gather recipes.

This is the fun part. Follow vegan boards, like mine, on Pinterest. Buy or borrow cookbooks. There are some great vegan ones out there. Here are some of my favorites:

Plenty of vegetarian cookbooks have vegan recipes or vegan options for a lot of their recipes. I highly recommend:

The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen is an especially wonderful book for making delicious meals from scratch. I have learned techniques, like blanching vegetables, as well as recipes.

Once you have more recipes collected than you could make in a lifetime, being vegan won't seem so hard.

4. Have a headline-length reason for being vegan-- for explaining to others.

The reasons aren't obvious to omnivores, and a lot of people are not impressed with a shrug or a vague answer. Some will become defensive when you tell them of your new choice, and they will want to poke holes in all of your reasons for it. They don't care that it's new and you're still trying to figure it out.

For these people, just come up with a one-sentence statement. "I don't like the way animals are treated." Even a small phrase works. "For the environment." From there, you can tell if your companion genuinely wants to know more or if they just want to be judgmental. The conversation often ends there, but if it doesn't, talk to those who are genuinely interested; walk away from those who aren't. My headline is, "For ethical, environmental and health reasons." Most people are satisfied with that.

5. Check out vegan-friendly restaurants in your area, and download the Happy Cow app for travel.

To me, a vegan-friendly restaurant is anywhere they know what vegan means. Vegetarian and vegan restaurants are obvious starting points, but you will want to have some omnivorous restaurants in your back pocket for steering large groups into going someplace you can eat.

In addition to Happy Cow, Yelp can be useful if you do a search for "vegan" in the reviews. Here are my Boston-Area recommendations.

6. Enjoy the ride!

No comments:

Post a Comment